Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dancing With Melissa Rycroft (DWTS 8 first round)

Not long after saying she just wanted to lead a normal and private life, Melissa Rycroft has put herself in a position to pull off a rare triple. I don’t know that they keep records on this anywhere, but I’m fairly certain that no one’s ever won three network level reality shows. The Dallas wine saleswoman made her HDTV on Making the Team, a reality show built around auditions for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Despite having to fight off mono, she made the squad. More recently Melissa Rycroft got both the last ring and the final rose on ABC’s the Bachelor. As most of Bachelor America knows, she still somehow didn’t wind up getting the guy, Jason Mesnick, who dropped her on After The Final Rose in favor of one of her competitors, Molly Malaney. Given how it happened, some would argue that Melissa ultimately won by losing. This week Melissa Rycroft made her debut on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars as a replacement for the injured Nancy O’dell. After the show, O’dell indulged a self-referential moment by interviewing Melissaa about her experience as Nancy O’dell’s replacement (reality tv's version of Being John Malkovitch)

In the current scramble to figure out who did what to whom and why, better known as the remnants of Bachelor 13, it’s appeared that everyone but Mike Fleiss, the show’s producers, has supporters. I wouldn’t feel too bad for Fleiss, he wound up with ratings, attention, and presumably even more money to fund his ongoing terrorist assault on American culture.

There was no doubt where Dancing With the Stars stood on the matter. As soon as Tom Bergeron announced her, Melissa was cheered enthusiastically by the audience. Later in the show, she stood there in what appeared to be a giant blue net accessorized with a fabric bandaid that covered the tattoo on her lower back as she got to revel in the judges’ further trashing of Jason Mesnick. The high point was Bruno Tonioli, the show’s most flamboyant judge, making an L with his fingers and pointing it at Jason. The gesture brought even bigger applause from the audience and a rueful smile from Melissa who didn’t make any efforts to defend her former fiancé.

Melissa isn’t the first person to do a reality show crossover, but given that this one is Dancing with the”Stars”, I’d say the meaning of “star” is getting awfully blurry. When did being on reality shows make somebody a star? This season, Melissa isn’t the only reality show/star. Holly Madison, another late replacement, is mostly known as one of Hugh Hefner’s fake girlfriends on the Girl Next Door. Fwiw, Melissa’s dancing debut with Tony Dovolani not only succeeded in dance terms, it gave the show’s ratings a major boost. My guess is that she’s the show’s single most popular participant this season thus far.

I wouldn’t expect the show to pull Julia Roberts or Brad Pitt from their filming schedules for twelve weeks, but this edition verges on Dancing with the Whoever. Julianne Hough is much better known than her “star” partner Chuck Wickes. Other than being a little young for it, I should mention that Julianne Hough might have been an ideal Bachelorette. On DWTS, she’s been this amazingly charismatic combination of gracious, competitive, wholesome, and sexy that’s made her a huge favorite with the show’s fans. In fact, partnering with Julianne is probably worth three or four spots in the standings. Adam would have been dumped on the first night. Cody probably would have been gone by the third week. I also honestly don’t know that Helio was necessarily a better dancer than the Spice Girl, though actual dancing often just plays an incidental role in the show’s outcome. I would say that some people think that turning the show into Dancing with Your Boyfriend may have unleashed a bit of a backlash against Julianne. Maybe she will turn up on the Bachelor if the Country Music thing doesn’t work and the partnership with Chuck blows up mid- paso doble. If she did, as angry as I am at Fleiss et. al. , I’d probably watch.

Such is the tv power of Julianne Hough. There just aren’t that many tv women who can pull off sexy while still being hugely popular with female viewers. Oddly, Melissa Rycroft has the same thing going for her and I suspect that her inclusion on DWTS has cut into Julianne’s fan base in a big way.

Julianne Hough remains a terrific dancer though it’s been a while since she’s had a partner good enough to showcase it. In terms of her waltz with Chuck, I just don’t know either way. He’s not a klutz, but he’s not especially graceful either.

The other Dancing with the Whoever moment came with the introduction of Gilles Marini, the current points leader. His so called “breakthrough performance” was a few unclothed minutes in the movie version of Sex and the City and he seemed to get about five lines of dialogue, which put him well behind the three stars, Big, Jennifer Hudson, etc. on the cast list. You know how they have to put that stuff on juice cartons “5% actual fruit juice, sugar, artificial flavorings, etc.” I could see the FCC telling Dancing with the Stars that they have to put up a disclaimer “Stars includes reality show rejects, minor characters in only semi-succesful movie versions of cable series, stars from really obscure sports, and anyone who ever appeared on the Love Boat, this show contains at least 5% cast members whom you may actually have heard of though they may be made from concentrate.”

Of course, the show is already something of a “safe house” for reality show veterans. Three of the pros, Lacey, Dmitry, and Chelsie were promoted from So You Think You Can Dance. Two of the judges, Bruno and Carrie Ann managed to survive their own summer reality series in which they had some sort of Dancing Singing rotisserie league. It got about as much attention as your average rotisserie league too. What can I say about L’il Kim? Not only has she made appearances on several reality shows, I’m not sure she’d exist without them. She did, however, have the best line of the night, “I was in jail when I first saw DWTS and I told myself then that I wanted to be on this show one day.” I’d say at the rate they’re digging for celebrity contestants, it won’t be that long before we start getting “Stars” who came from either America’s Most Wanted or Cops.

This is, however part of what makes DWTS so watchable at times, it’s unrepentantly cheesy. Take for example Samantha Harris -Is there a worse interviewer anywhere on network television? I have it from a good source that the Bush administration had her third in line for White House press secretary when Dana Perino got the job. Should they ever add war criminals to the mix, Karl Rove would likely have been even more entertaining than Steve Wozniak. Tom Bergeron is also wondrously inoffensive. Who else could explain that Ty (Melissa Rycroft seems to have some sort of compulsion to be involved with people named "Ty") Murray’s wife Jewel (she was going to be a contestant until she got injured) was going to be singing on the first results show, without saying something like “And given the way Ty danced, we’re getting her on not a moment too soon.” In the meantime in an age when America is congratulating itself for having its first black President, no one has yet to comment on Lawrence Taylor’s role in shattering another racial myth by proving that not all black people can dance.

I do feel bad for Cody Linley. He got to be the youngest DWTS contestant for all of one season. Shawn Johnson will probably be one of the contenders, but at the back of our minds pretty much everyone is wondering how “sexy” do you want a 17 year old gymnast to look and act on a show like this? The women’s costumes have always been one of the show’s guilty pleasures. For some reason, Kim and Edyta appear on virtually every season without ever actually partnering one of the winners.

Whether this is Bachelor 13.5 or DWTS 8, injury edition, the show’s producers have found a way to revive interest in yet another Reality Show format at least for another season. Seeing whether Melissa Rycroft completes her reality show revenge for Molly Malaney’s cutting in on her last rose tango with Jason Mesnick has got to be more compelling than wondering every week whether or not they’ll finally vote Cloris Leachman off the show. It’s no accident that they found someone younger than Cody this season, but they didn’t come back with someone older than Cloris.

In the meantime, America gets to wonder if Melissa's parents will ever show up in the audience for this one.

Dancing With the Stars



At 3/11/2009 12:45:00 PM, Blogger Alicia said...

Great Recap.....FYI Dmitry (Holly's partner) is also a SYTYCD contestant! I'm loving the crossover

At 3/11/2009 12:59:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

thanks....I've made the correction. The crossover really is fun, just wonder where it stops. I wasn't shocked that Melissa dances well, she was still fun to watch.

At 3/12/2009 11:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved the costume-coordinated sequined tattoo cover. Angelina should start wearing those on the red carpet.

I feel a little left out though. I just can't get into the dancing/singing reality shows (I only watched Melissa's clip on YouTube). I guess I only have room for one cheesy borderline-watchable TV show in my life at a time, and the Bachelor is it.

At 3/13/2009 09:48:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...


I'm not sure that I'm going to review or watch DWTS all the way through. I was curious to see how the crossover thing went with Melissa.

Does seem like a great business, matching tatoo covers for formal wear. May be one of the few growth industries left in the US.


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